The Book of Divine Unity
From: Usul al-Kafi
The transitory universe and the existence of its creator
157 Abdul Malik, an atheist from Egypt, heard about the teachings of Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p) and came to Medina to see him. He was informed that the Imam (p) was in Mecca at that time. Therefore, he proceeded to Mecca and contacted the Imam (p).
Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p) asked him: What is your name?
Abdul Malik said: Abdul Malik
Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p): What is your Kunniyat (Title)?
Abdul Malik: Abu Abdullah (Abu Abdullah means father of Abdullah)
The Imam (p): Whose servant are you? Is he one of the kings on this earth or of the heavens? Also, tell me about your son. Is he the servant of the God in heaven or on earth? Your reply, in any case, will contradict your atheism.
Abdul Malik was dumb-founded. Hisham ibn Hakam, a disciple of Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p) was present at the moment.
Hisham: Why are you not replying to the Imam’s (p) question?
Abdul Malik did not like this interference and remained silent.
Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p): Come and see me after I complete my circumambulation of the Kaba.
Abdul Malik waited till the Imam (p) completed his circumambulations around the Holy Kaba and then approached the Imam (p) and sat near him. Some other people were also present at that time.
The Imam (p): Do you know that the earth has something above it and something beneath it?
Abdul Malik: Yes.
The Imam (p): Have you ever gone beneath the earth?
Abdul Malik: No.
The Imam (p): Do you know what is there beneath it?
Abdul Malik: No. I do not know, but I think there is nothing beneath it.
The Imam (p): Mere thought does not amount to certainty. Have you ever ascended to the heavens?
Abdul Malik: No.
The Imam (p): Do you know whatever is in the heavens?
Abdul Malik: No.
The Imam (p): How surprising it is that you have neither reached East nor West. You have never gone beneath the earth nor ascended the heavens. You have no knowledge of what is above and beneath them and still you are prepared to discuss about them. Does a wise person discuss a subject he does not know?
Abdul Malik was left very much impressed.
Abdul Malik: No one has talked to me with this finesse.
The Imam (p): So you are in doubt whether there is something or not beneath the earth or in the heavens?
Abdul Malik: Probably, yes.
Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p): Listen carefully. One who does not know has no ground to argue with someone who knows, and an ignorant person has no right to discuss anything. Oh my Egyptian brother, pay attention to what I say. We have never doubted the existence of God. Do you see that the sun and moon, and the day and night run their course and never deviate? They are like lifeless automatons and have no space except the one prescribed for them. If they have the choice to move on their own, they may not revolve. And if they are not under absolute compulsion, why does a day not become night and vice versa? O my Egyptian brother, they are under absolute compulsion to follow this routine and the one Who has made them subservient is their absolute controller and the greatest.
Abdul Malik: You are right.
The Imam (p): O my Egyptian brother, if people speculate that all is just time that causes people to die, why does this time not bring them back? And if it brings them here, why does it take them away? O my Egyptian brother, people are helpless (in these matters) and wonder as to why the canopy has been raised and why has the earth been spread out? Why does not the sky fall on the earth and why does the earth not crumble down in its strata and why do they (the sky and the earth) and those in it not collide with each other?
Abdul Malik surrendered.
Abdul Malik: God, their Creator and Protector, is holding them in His Divine grip.
Translator’s Note: Thus, Abdul Malik, the atheist who was proud of his atheism, became a Muslim and came into the fold of the disciples of Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p) and subsequently became a preacher in Egypt.
158 An atheist came to see Imam Ali ar-Reza (p) while he was in the presence of some people.
Imam Ali ar-Reza (p): Look here, if what you say (about the non-existence of the Creator) is correct – in fact it is not – would not your fate and our fate be the same? Our prayers, fasting and faith will not harm us. And in case what we say is true – and it is true – would you not perish and we be delivered (from the chastisement of the Hereafter)?
Atheist: Mercy of God be on you. Tell me how He is and where He is?
The Imam (p): Woe be unto you, verily what you have observed is wrong. God created the sense and meaning of the expression ‘how’, when this expression did not exist and similarly the sense and meaning of the word ‘when’, when it did not exist. Therefore, He did not come within the purview of ‘how’ and ‘when’. He cannot be felt by the sense and cannot be conceived on the basis of anything.
Atheist: If He cannot be conceived by anything then He is nothing.
The Imam (p): Alas, when you failed to feel His existence through your senses, it does not prove that he is not existent and that He is not your Lord. On the other hand, when we failed to feel His existence through our senses, we gained conviction that He is our Lord-Protector and that He has no similarity to anything as things are.
Atheist: Tell me since when has He existed?
The Imam (p): You tell me when He did not exist, then I will tell you since when He has existed.
Atheist: What is the proof of His existence?
The Imam (p): I looked at my body and found that I cannot increase or decrease it in its length and breadth and I cannot safeguard it against unpleasantness, I came to the conclusion that there is a Maker of this living form and therefore I believed in His existence. Also on seeing the boats sail by His All-Pervading power and on account of the formation of the clouds, circulation of winds, motions of the sun and the moon and the stars and other manifest marvels of His creation, I believed in His existence.
159 Abdullah al-Daysani, an atheist had a dialogue with Hisham ibn al- Hakam one of the companions of Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p).
The Atheist: Do you believe in God?
Hisham replied in the affirmative.
The Atheist: Is He Almighty?
Hisham: Yes, He is Almighty and All-Powerful.
The Atheist: Can He put the whole world inside an egg without enlarging the size of the egg or diminishing the volume of the world?
Hisham: Give me some time to think over it.
The Atheist said “I will give you one whole year” and walked away.
Hisham went to see Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p) in a hurry and said: O Son of the Prophet Muhammad (p), Daysani has put a challenging question to me and I seek none except God and you to answer this question.
Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p) asked: What was the question?
Hisham related the question of Daysani.
The Imam (p): O Hisham! How many sense-organs do you have?
Hisham replied: Five.
The Imam (p): Which one is the smallest among them?
Hisham: The pupil of the eye.
The Imam (p): What is the size of the pupil of the eye?
Hisham: About the size of a grain of lentil or a part of it.
The Imam (p): Alright, now look around and tell me what you see.
Hisham: I see the sky, the earth, the houses, the spacious mansions, the mountains and the rivers, etc.
The Imam (p): The One Who can put all you see inside a grain of lentil or a part of the same can also insert the entire world inside an egg without enlarging the size of the egg or diminishing the size of the world.
On hearing this Hisham was overjoyed and fell down on his face performing a prostration and kissed the hands, feet and forehead of the Imam (p) and said: O Son of the Prophet Muhammad (p), this answer will be sufficient for me.
Hisham returned to his place. The very next day Daysani came to see Hisham and said: O Hisham, I have just come to greet you and have not come for an answer to my question.
Hisham: Even so, here is the answer to your question.
Hisham then told him what the Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p) had said in answer to his question.
Daysani then went to see the Imam (p) and requested an audience with him. The Imam (p) granted his request.
Addressing the Imam (p) Daysani said: O Jafar (p) son of Muhammad (p)! Show me the way to my Lord.
The Imam (p) asked him his name.
Daysani left abruptly without answering.
His friends asked him: Why did you not tell your name?
Abdullah al-Daysani said: If I had told him my name – Abdullah – he would have asked, ‘Who is this Lord whose servant you are?’ (Note: Abdullah means ‘Servant of Allah’).
His friends said: Go to see the Imam (p) again and request him to guide you to your God without asking your name.
Daysani went to see the Imam (p) again and said: O Jafar (p) son of Muhammad (p), guide me to my God but do not ask my name.
The Imam (p) asked him to sit down and relax. Daysani did so. Perchance a young boy was playing nearby and had an egg in his hand.
Addressing the young boy the Imam (p) said: Let me have this egg for a while.
The boy handed over the egg to the Imam (p).
Addressing Daysani the Imam (p) said: This is a protected castle. It has a hard covering, and beneath the hard covering there is a fine covering, and beneath that fine covering there is liquid gold and molten silver. Neither the molten silver intermingles with the liquid gold nor do the liquid gold merges into the molten silver and both remain as they are. Nothing comes out of it to divulge the secret of its precision and nothing enters in it to control the internal balance. No one knows if the final product will be a male or a female. All of a sudden it splits and results in a peacock like multicolored offspring. Do you not see a Supreme power behind all this?
Daysani remained engrossed in deep thought and then exclaimed: I bear witness that there is no god but Allah and that He is One and has no partners and that Prophet Muhammad (p) is His bondman and His apostle and I also bear witness that you are a divinely ordained Imam and the proof of His existence and I hereby disown all my previous misconceptions.
160 …Hisham ibn Hakam asked Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p): The atheist was asking as to what was the proof of the existence of the Creator.
Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p): The existence of a phenomenon is a proof of its Creator. Do you not realize that when you see a building, you at once come to know that some architect has built it although you have not seen the architect? . . .
Chapter 2: Is God a thing?
161 Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (p) was once asked “May I conceive anything in order to understand the existence, nature and unity of God?”
Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (p) said: Yes, but you will have to imagine something which the mind cannot grasp and which has no limitations. He is unlike anything that comes into your mind or imagination. Nothing resembles Him, nor can any stretch of the imagination reach Him. How can He be conceived when He is totally different from whatever can be conceived and is the reverse of whatever is imagined? If you want to say that God is a thing then imagine something that cannot be encompassed by the mind and which is without limits.
162 Imam Muhammad Taqi (p) was asked: Is it possible to say that God is a ‘thing’?
The Imam (p) said: Yes, provided you exclude Him from two limitations: non-existence and similarities to other existing things.
163 Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (p): God is absolutely independent of all His creatures and all His creatures have absolutely nothing in common with Him. And to whatsoever the expression ‘things’ is applicable is a creature except God, the Elevated One and God is the Creator of everything.
164 An atheist requested Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p) to define God by asking: What is He?
Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (p) replied: He is an entity quite unlike any other entities (or things). Revert to this statement of mine in the sense of assertion of absolute existence. He is a ‘Thing’ in the sense of reality of things except that he does not have body or form. He cannot be imagined and cannot be touched and cannot be felt through the five senses. Perception cannot grasp Him. Age cannot reduce Him and time cannot change Him.
Atheist: You say that He is All-Hearing and All-Seeing.
The Imam (p): He is All-Hearing and All-Seeing. All-Hearing without organic mechanism (of hearing faculty) and All-Seeing without physiological instrumentation. He hears by Himself and sees by Himself. When I say that He is All-Hearing by Himself and He is All-Seeing by Himself, I do not mean that He is something and that His self is something else. I only intended to express what was in my mind because you asked me a question and I wanted to explain it to you.
As the subject was very delicate and abstract, the Imam (p) explained further: I say He is All-Hearing, but here ‘All’ does not mean that it is composed of parts. I only wanted to explain and exemplify to you what I had in my mind. The purpose of my statement is that He is All-Hearing, All-Seeing, All-Aware, Omniscient without any multiplicity in His Self of conception.
Atheist: Then what actually is He?
The Imam (p): He is the Nourisher, the Worshipped, and He is God and this statement of mine does not allude to the letters ‘Alif’ and ‘Laam’ and ‘Ha’ etc. By them I mean the connotation and the entity and the Creator of things and their Fashioner and the projected sense of these letters. It is this meaning that has been given the name of God, ar-Rahman (the Beneficent), ar-Rahim (the Merciful), al-Aziz (the Powerful) and other such names. He is known by these names and He is the Worshipped One, the Glorious, the Honored …
God cannot be recognized except through his Own Supreme Self
165 Imam Ali (p): Recognize God through God Himself and recognize the Apostle through his Apostleship and recognize those vested with divine authority through their religious commands, justice and their good deeds.
Translator’s note: Imam Ali (p) says that God has created bodies and souls and He has no resemblance to them. He has no partners in His creation of things, persons and the law of causality. As God has neither body nor soul, He can be recognized through His Supreme Self only. If we attribute the slightest likeness of any of His creations to Him, then we have not recognized Him.
166 Imam Ali (p) was asked: How did you recognize your Lord?
Imam Ali (p): I have recognized Him through what He has recognized Himself.
He (p) was further questioned: How has God recognized Himself?
The Imam (p): God has no likeness to any form, nor can He be felt through the senses, nor imagined by analogy with mankind. He is near us in spite of our distance from Him. He is farthest in spite of being nearest. He is above everything and it cannot be said that there is anything above Him. He is in front of everything but cannot be said to be in the front (in the sense of direction). He is inside everything (has created and knows the essence of everything) but not like one (material thing) into another. He encompasses everything but not like one thing encompassing another. Glorified is He who is like this and nothing else is like Him.